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Feb. 2, 2022

Making Wine Approachable w/ Mark Warren & Tom Beaton, FitVine

Making Wine Approachable w/ Mark Warren & Tom Beaton, FitVine

Wondering why there was only beer and spirits, but no wine at Crossfit events and races, Mark Warren and Tom Beaton, Founders of FitVine, decided to start their own brand. With a goal of making wine more transparent and approachable, FitVine aims to “fit

Wondering why there was only beer and spirits but no wine at Crossfit events and races, Mark Warren and Tom Beaton, Founders of FitVine, decided to start their own brand. With a goal of making wine more transparent and approachable, FitVine aims to “fit into your lifestyle.” At the $15-20/bottle price point, FitVine is bringing more Gen X and Millennials into the wine category with wine that tastes good and takes away the stuffy image of the wine industry.

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Detailed Show Notes: 

  • Mark and Tom’s background
    • Met ~20 years ago, both in the tech industry and entrepreneurs
    • They have always been into wine
    • Both former athletes got into Crossfit 2 decades ago at events. They saw spirits and beer but no wine and asked, “why isn’t wine part of an active lifestyle?”
  • FitVine’s founding
    • At $15/bottle - many wines are overprocessed
    • Target a “healthy” lifestyle, and the word “fit” means how does wine fit into your lifestyle?
    • Want to have a positive impact on people’s lives - relieve stress
  • Market segment
    • Initially thought they were targeting the athletes, but quickly learned it was the significant others at the races & events, the “aspirational group” that wanted to make better choices that were FitVine’s customers
      • Gen X “yoga mom/dad,” Millennials M/F both increasing
      • DTC business has customers from early ’20s to late ’70s
      • The segment is ~85-100M Americans
    • FitVine vs. “Clean Wine” - try to be careful and not knock other wines
    • Focused on 90% of the wine market and what people are drinking with an average ~$15/bottle price point
    • Trying to establish a “go-to” brand people can trust and remove confusion for people without wine knowledge
  • Marketing
    • Targeting the average consumer who’s not wine knowledgeable and intimidated by wine
    • Trying to be more transparent and make it easier for the consumer
      • Have nutritional breakdown for all wines
      • Publishes calories, carbohydrates, sugar, alcohol
      • TTB stopped their ability to add more nutritional information (e.g., resveratrol, etc.) because it might show it as a healthy product
      • Does full lab tasting on all wines and have done competitor lab testing as well - sometimes show summary statistics (e.g., 90% less sugar than the Top 10 wines on the market)
    • They took tasting notes away not to confuse the average consumer
    • Start with the wine first, then discuss the positive attributes of the wines
    • Wine often marketed as too “stuffy,” makes it intimidating
      • Want to change the approach, a higher level of YellowTail - which was easy and popular in the $5-8/bottle category
      • At $15-20, more of an investment, wine needs to be good
      • Primary differentiation is transparency - there are no more faces to the big brands/wine companies, the last one was Jess Jackson
      • Want to be very approachable - no beige chateau or river on the label
  • Products
    • Low in sugar but “full” alcohol
    • People want the alcohol in wine
    • Alcohol also impacts the taste of wine - de-alc’d wine often tastes “thin”
    • Low in tannins and histamines
      • Tannins can be added, but none for FitVine
      • High tannins are not suitable for non-seasoned wine drinkers looking for approachable wine
    • No flavor additives (e.g., Mega Purple) or other additives
    • “Triple Filtering” of wine - uses crossflow filtration that passes through 3 times (standard crossflow process)
    • Wines are not bulk wines, controlled from grape to bottle
    • Mostly Lodi fruit, sustainably raised with no pesticides
  • Production
    • 2021 - ~425k cases
    • 2022 - ~600k cases
  • Go-to-market strategy
    • Started DTC only
    • Started with social media
    • Went anywhere, people would let them pour wine (e.g., yoga studios, gyms, etc.)
      • Gave out samples and postcards to drive to the website
      • 2021 - still did >5,000 events
    • Went consumer first vs. pushing through distributors - Whole Foods called in 2016 - brought into retail in 2017 (started w/ 4-5 stores, then spread across the US)
    • 2022 - will be in 25,000 locations in the US, ~35,000 in 2023
    • Now focused on grocery stores and delivery (e.g., Instacart, Drizly, GoPuff)
    • Strong repeat buying
    • DTC offers limited-run varietals, which allows the testing of new SKUs before distribution
    • DTC has stayed level (now <10% of business), wholesale has seen significant growth
    • 2017 - had a contract with the Boston Red Sox, created single-serve 187ml glass
      • Did well, but with a multi-layered business model, was not the best use of marketing investment
  • Wine industry trends to watch
    • The Low or No alcohol wine category is challenging
    • Need a different approach to educate consumers
      • Give people more transparency around what’s in the bottle
      • Give people more information in small, easy to understand chunks
    • Growth of canned wine - believes due to being more approachable
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